Argentina road trip routeThe next day we went straight to Ischigualasto Provincial Park which is about 73 km (45 mi) from San Agustin. After the long and interesting day in the national park and on the road we reached Catamarca for the evening. You can see the whole route of our Mendoza to Salta round trip on the image on the right plus here is our full 8-day road trip plan:

  1. San Agustin de Valle Fertil
  2. San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca (with Ischigualasto Provinical Park)
  3. Salta
  4. San Salvador de Jujuy
  5. San Salvador de Jujuy (with Humahuaca and Purmamarca)
  6. Salta (with Salinas Grandes)
  7. Belen (with Cafayate)
  8. Famatina (with Fiambala)

Ischigualasto Provincial Park

Also known as Valley of the Moon (Valle de la Luna) belongs to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. In the park you can see the origin of the first dinosaurs from the late Triassic Period (that’s before Jurassic). Of course 230 million years ago the area was a lot different. It was a big prairie with rivers, lakes and swamps. Now it is a place where nothing grows. Even its name Ischigualasto means in old Indian dialect “Dead Land” or “Land without Any Life”. So if you are in the area I totally recommend to take a few hours and visit it.

The Tour

The park offers a 40 km (25 mi) guided tour which you can participate with your own vehicle. The tours start in every 30 minutes, so plan your arrival wisely. Unfortunately the guide only speaks Spanish (maybe it has changed by now) but the informative booklets were in English. And as I understood the guide spoke quite the same story that’s written in the booklets only more detailed and updated. The tour takes approximately 3 hours and includes 5 view-stops with a visit to the Dr. William Sill’s museum. In the museum you can see a digging site with the original dinosaur remains. It’s pretty impressive. Near the tour exit gate is another museum with many models of local dinosaurs plus a possibility to buy souvenirs like T-shirts etc.

If you are no stranger to the Spanish then you can get more information about the park (like opening times) from here: www.ischigualasto.gob.ar. In case this doesn’t satisfy your hunger for paleontology then you should also visit Talampaya National Park which is just next by the Ischigualasto Provincial Park. And for last, I suggest you to bring a sun protection for these areas. It can get really hot over there and there are practically no shades anywhere.

dead land

Badlands a.k.a. “Land without Any Life”

ischigualasto

Pre-Jurassic Park

ischigualasto ball's field

Rolling stones

ischigualasto sphinx

Sphinx by nature

ischigualasto wu-tang

Wu-Tang Forever / Gravel Pit

Ischigualasto submarine

Submarine (or what’s left of it)

el hongo

The Mushroom

ischigualasto dinosaur

Where do you see yourself in the next 200 million years?

ischigualasto fox

Little foxosaurus

Catamarca

San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca or just Catamarca for short is the capital of the province with the same name. It doesn’t have a very high population – about 140 000 inhabitants – but it sure does have a lively one. You can feel it specially when you go for a walk in the city in the evening. The parks and bright shopping streets are full of people. Still it has been said that many of them are living in precarious conditions, so I suggest you to think through the walking route.

And again if you are in the area then I recommend to step by for a meal and an enjoyable walk in the city with a nice colonial architecture. One architectural example is the cathedral just next to the main square:

Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Valle

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Valley (Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Valle) (pic: Walker)

Where did I eat?

La Cueva del Santo

If you are into Spanish cuisine then this place is for you. Really cozy atmosphere and very good food that is guaranteed by the chef who’s also from Spain. He surely knows what he’s doing. In addition to a steak I had there delicious tapas (how else?) with a local beer Dos Leone. I would definitely recommend.

Where did I stay?

Hotel el Shincal II

Since we didn’t book any hostels in advance then we had to take many circles around the city to find a nice place for a reasonable price. Shincal II (there’s also a hotel named just Shincal) met those conditions. It is located not quite in the center of the city but it’s not too far neither. The place was clean and simple. Only weird thing was our room’s window to the janitor’s room – not the best view.

Have you been to Ischigualasto Provincial Park? How did you like it?